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(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's disappointing Euroleague campaign finally comes to an end on Thursday night when Barcelona visits the Nokia Arena in the final game of the Top 16.
Maccabi had already lost any hope of advancing to the competition's quarterfinals ahead of last week's game at Alba Berlin, with Barcelona and Real Madrid clinching the top two spots in Group F by winning four of their first five games.
Tel Aviv coach Pini Gershon would have happily done without the distraction of Thursday's game, which is, however, significant for the Spaniards, who can win the group and earn home-court advantage in the upcoming best-of-five playoffs with a victory.
Gershon's only concern at the moment is making sure Maccabi regains its BSL title, as is clearly evident with the signings of Aaron McGhee last week and Raviv Limonad on Tuesday.
Both McGhee and Limonad can't play in the Euroleague, but they can help win the league for Tel Aviv, which also already has one eye on rebuilding the team for next season.
D'or Fischer and Yaniv Green will be missing for a second straight week on Thursday, giving Top 16 Week 5 co-MVP Charles Gaines another chance to impress.
"This is a Euroleague game, and in such a high level of competition professionals want to win every game," Gershon said.
"The fact Barcelona must win could put some pressure on them, and we will try to take advantage of that.
"Maccabi is a club with a lot of pride and tradition, and these are two things that we will have to bring to this game, not only because we lack a couple of key players, but also because we need to show that we do the best we can even if our season has finished earlier than we hoped."